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The customer service industry toggles between the terms call center and contact center, but what’s the difference? Or is there one? Often, people talk or ask questions about call centers, but they really mean contact center. The terms, though frequently used interchangeably, have two distinct meanings.

Today, we’re identifying these distinctions, so we can all be more intentional when using the common industry terms.

What’s the difference between a call center and a contact center?

A call center is dedicated to handling a high volume of phone calls, while a contact center is designed to handle a high volume of multi- and omni-channel communications.

Call centers can be inbound service departments or outbound sales departments. But, either way, they only handle phone calls. These centers typically provide service that lets companies keep costs low and efficiency high. Focusing on high volume, one-channel communication means agents and supervisors need less training. In multi- or omni-channel centers, agents have to be fluent in email, live chat, social, and video, too. Keeping training costs low and having a team that is stellar at handling one channel means less time and money spent for the company.

Contact centers are a bit different. They are people-focused rather than cost-focused. Using the term contact center instead of call center makes the distinction that agents not only take calls, but monitor any number of other channels in real-time, too. Contact centers modernized the way call centers do business, realizing the needs of customers are no longer confined to one channel. In fact, 55 percent of companies say they use at least 10 channels to connect with customers. Contact centers move away from the traditional thought of low-cost, highly-efficient service. They represent the idea that service is core to the customer experience. Contact centers focus on the quality of service they provide, meeting customers where they are instead of making customers stick to single-channel phone conversations when they need help.

Keep an eye out for more definition posts (like this one) to unpack common industry terms.